“For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”
I Corinthians 15:9-10 NKJV
If anybody knew what it was like to be defined by past mistakes and hurts, it was Paul the Apostle. The writer of two-thirds of the New Testament, Paul spent the majority of his early life trying to destroy the Christian faith. He presided over the murder of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, and the beginning of great persecution of Christians in Jerusalem. He also hunted down Christian men and woman and had them put into prison. Talk about overcoming some difficult past mistakes. Even the early church was skeptical about Paul’s conversion to Christianity. Paul even defended himself and his past in many of his letters to the early church. I’m sure his past was a constant question among many Christians and non-Christians alike. But what I think makes Paul’s story so unique was his ability to put his past behind him and to look forward in Christ. As Christians, we have such a difficult time putting our past mistakes behind us. We let the things we did before we knew Christ or even the mistakes we made as Christians, define who we are today. Paul went so far to say, “I am what I am” because of the grace of GOD. Paul wasn’t denying that he had persecuted the church. On the contrary, he used his past to propel him closer to Christ and deeper into the destiny GOD had for him. Everything that Paul had done in the past led him to his intimate encounter with Jesus and at that exact moment the past that defined him became the future that redefined him. GOD needed Paul. All of Paul. His past mistakes, hurts, and shame because GOD knew that Paul could use his past to redefine his future. “I am what I am” not only encompassed who Paul had become as a leader in the Christian faith, but it included everything in his past.
You are who you are for a reason. You have a past just like Paul did. Maybe you didn’t murder Christians, but I am 100% positive that you have something in your past that still defines you. Others might not see it. Your spouse or your friends might not even know about it, but you do and so does GOD and He still wants you. You have certain talents and abilities for a reason. You like certain music and connect with people on different levels for a reason. You are who you are because GOD created you uniquely for a unique purpose. GOD put you on this planet at a specific time in history for something that is beyond anything you have done in your past or mistakes in the future. You have been made for this exact moment in time. The enemy would like nothing more than to hold you captive to everything you have done in the past so you don’t reach the potential GOD has for you in the future. Its those moments when you are lying awake in bed at night that the enemy reminds you of your past mistakes, hurts, and sins. Like a snake, he leans in and whispers in hopes that you will continue to live in a self built prison and never realize that the door to your cell was never locked. Paul had this choice too. He could allow his past to continue to define him or he could use his past to redefine his future. We have that same choice today: stay stuck in the past or move into the destiny GOD has for us not leaving behind our past mistakes, but using them to propel us forward. “I am what I am” for Christ and for His Kingdom.